Elie Wiesel

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Night | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In Night, Section 5 how is the prisoner in the infirmary who says he has more faith in Hitler than anyone else an example of verbal irony?

Verbal irony occurs in a text when a speaker's meaning is the opposite of what he says. In Night, Hitler is the architect of the horrors the men are experiencing. This is why Eliezer explodes at the fellow prisoner who claims to have faith in Hitler. The prisoner rationalizes that Hitler is the only one who has kept all his promises to the Jewish people. The conversation between the two men stops after this remark, presumably because Eliezer realizes the man is correct. Ironically, Hitler promised to annihilate the Jews and is doing so with great efficiency and speed, thus "keeping his promises."

Why does Eliezer add the information about the infirmary being liberated by the Russians in Night, Section 5?

Generally, Night is written in from the perspective of Eliezer's eyewitness observations. However, at points Elie Wiesel speaks from the perspective of the adult looking back at his wartime experiences. He does this when he provides the information about the infirmary being liberated two days later by the Russians. The information is an example of dramatic irony in which the reader is aware of something the characters cannot know. Wiesel underscores the irony in his use of the words "quite simply": "They [the patients] were, quite simply, liberated by the Russians." Had Eliezer stayed at the infirmary, he would have been liberated before the death march to Gleiwitz.

In Night, Section 6 how is Eliezer able to run while on the death march despite his ailing foot?

Eliezer notes a number of reasons why he runs. Running warms his body. He does not want his father to see him die, and he knows he will be shot "like a ... dog" if he falls behind. Eliezer also describes an out-of-body experience in which he views himself as an automaton. To survive the death march, the prisoners can no longer act or respond like humans; instead, they must become like machines. He tells himself, "Don't think. Don't stop. Run." It is as if Eliezer has become a self and a body, and the two are no longer related.

In Night, Section 6 why does Eliezer's father smile after his brief nap during the death march?

When the men take a break during the death march, they are exhausted. At one point, Eliezer wakes up his father, who has dozed off; he is afraid his father will freeze to death if he falls asleep. Others around them sleep even though they know it could mean death. Eliezer describes his father's awakening: "He sat up, bewildered, stunned." He looks around, then smiles. Eliezer wonders where the smile could possibly have come from without offering an answer. Readers, however, can guess Shlomo is reassured that his son is still with him and looking after him, even in a freezing shed.

Why does Wiesel include the the story of Rabbi Eliahu and his son in Night, Section 6?

Since their first night in the camps, Eliezer has mentioned repeatedly how he needs his father's strengthening hand. Just prior to mentioning Rabbi Eliahu, Eliezer notes he is only able to keep going on the death march because he does not want to let his father down. They are partners in survival: the two of them take turns sleeping during the breaks from the march. Rabbi Eliahu and his son have presumably done similar things for each other through their time in the camps. However, now Rabbi Eliahu's son has left his father when he realizes that doing so will enhance his chances for survival. Eliezer prays for the strength to not violate the sanctity of the father-son bond as the Rabbi's son has done. Witnessing the son's desertion forces Eliezer to confront the impulse within himself to do the same.

In Night, Section 6 why is it appropriate that Rabbi Eliahu helps Eliezer rediscover his faith?

When the reader is first introduced to Eliezer, he is a committed and pious Jew. As he experiences the horrors of the Holocaust, his faith wanes and he feels anger at God. Rabbi Eliahu is respected by everyone and is "the only rabbi whom nobody ever failed to address as Rabbi in Buna." This special man's situation brings Eliezer temporarily back to his faith as he prays to God to save him from the inhumanity of Rabbi Eliahu's son. Eliezer understands the challenges of caring for his father under the circumstances. He prays he will have the strength and heart to maintain his humanity by standing with his father.

In Night, Section 6 why does Juliek play his violin during the break from the death march?

Before leaving on the death march, Eliezer notes the men are allowed to take extra clothing; some inmates are so bundled up that they look like clowns. Juliek, however, takes his violin with him because the instrument is more dear to him than anything else. Juliek knows he is near death, and so he picks up his violin and plays a piece by Beethoven. it is an act of rebellion, as the Nazis have forbidden the Jews from performing the German composer's work. In his final act, Juliek's identity will not be denied: he is a musician despite the attempts of the Nazis to strip him of his humanity. Eliezer describes Juliek's playing as "if Juliek's soul had become his bow. He was playing his life." This performance for the dead and near dying allows Juliek to have some peace before his death. It also allows the other starved and half-dead men a moment of beauty. The next morning, Juliek is dead beside his destroyed violin.

In Night, Section 7 how does the scene between Meir and his father illuminate the relationship between Eliezer and Shlomo?

A number of scenes in Night focus on fathers and sons. The only relationship that is deeply explored is the one between Eliezer and his father. In the scene between Meir and his father, the father has managed to get some bread for his son and for himself. Meir, however, is so hungry and desperate for food he deliberately kills his father for food, despite the old man's cries: "Meir, my little Meir! Don't you recognize me." The son is, in turn, killed for the bread. Eliezer's only comment on the scene is to note his age: "I was sixteen." However, the contrast between Meir's treatment of his father and Eliezer's treatment of Shlomo is clear. No matter how much Eliezer resents his responsibility to his father, he never forsakes it.

In Night, Section 7 how does Eliezer's father's interaction with Meir Katz show that he has not been dehumanized by the Nazis?

On the way to Buchenwald, the train stops periodically and the dead are thrown off. At one point, Eliezer's father's condition is so poor that he is about to be thrown out. Despite his dilapidated condition, Eliezer's father strives to help his fellow man. Meir Katz, who is a friend of Eliezer's father, is depressed from the loss of his son and worn down. Eliezer's father tries to lift his spirits: "Don't give in! ... You must resist! ... Don't lose faith in yourself!" Earlier, Eliezer notes his father was a respected man and was involved "with the welfare of others." This description of the man Shlomo was before his incarceration is consistent with his behavior toward Meir Katz. No circumstance can deprive him of his humanity.

In Night, Section 8 why does Eliezer show anger and not sympathy when his father is seemingly ready to give up?

Eliezer is frightened. He has relied on his father and been comforted by his presence throughout their time in the camps. Upon arriving in Buchenwald, Eliezer says, "I tightened my grip on my father's hand. The old familiar fear: not to lose him." As the Jews are moved from camp to camp, Eliezer realizes the end of the war may be near. The thought of losing his father after they have been through so much upsets and terrifies Eliezer. He is forced into the role of protector but realizes he is not arguing with his father but "with Death itself," a death his father has already chosen. He is close to losing the person who has kept him alive.

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